|Monday, September 16
Updated: September 17, 3:50 PM ET
Giants-Dodgers best rivalry in baseball
By Jim Caple
Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca are close friends. Juan Marichal placed a call to John Roseboro's deathbed to say he was praying for him this summer. And San Francisco's most notorious brawl this season was between Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, not the Giants and the Dodgers.
But if the rivalry is no longer is as fierce as it once was, here we are again anyway, entering September's final two weeks with San Francisco and Los Angeles opening a four-game series at Dodger Stadium that will help determine which team goes to the postseason and which goes to the golf course. The Diamondbacks are solidly in first place in the National League West but the wild card remains up for grabs and the one-game gap between the Giants and Dodgers is so narrow you can barely see it through Eric Gagne's glasses.
True, they're only playing for the wild card and that race probably will go down to San Francisco's season-ending series at home against Houston. But this is the last meeting of the year between the Dodgers and Giants, the aroma of Dodger Dogs fills the nostrils, Vin Scully's eloquent voice fills the airwaves, gas-hogging SUVs fill the parking lot and another chapter is about to unfold in baseball's most enduring rivalry.
Brooklyn and New York, or Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Giants-Dodgers rivalry is as dependable as a cold one and a bag of peanuts in the bleachers.
I can already hear the "Yankees Suck" chants from Boston and New Yorkers undoubtedly are already overloading my email account in protest. And I grant them, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is fiercer and more passionate, but the Giants-Dodgers rivalry is more consistent, and in some ways, even better.
In the Dodgers-Giants rivalry, one team doesn't feast at the expense of its rival. The Giants have won the pennant 17 times and the World Series five times while the Dodgers have been to the World Series 18 times and won it six times. They're as even as Betty and Veronica. On the other hand, since selling Babe Ruth to New York, the Red Sox have been to the World Series four times, winning none, while the Yankees have been to the series 38 times, winning 26. They're as even as the Quaid brothers.
The Giants and Dodgers also crush their rival's hopes with the remorseless regularity of an IRS audit. Since the 1951 season, the Giants and Dodgers have finished first and second nine times, and within a couple games of each other and first place two other times. Almost as importantly, the Giants and Dodgers have frequently played spoilers to each other. In 1982 and 1991, the Giants beat the Dodgers the final weekend to keep Los Angeles out of the playoffs. The Dodgers returned the favor in 1993 and again last year. Balkan nations don't even the score among themselves that often.
The Yankees and Red Sox, meanwhile, went from 1951-1976 without ever finishing within 10 games of each other in the same season one of the two teams won a title. That's a quarter-century without a September game between them that meant something to both teams. Granted, the Yankees and Red Sox have finished first and second in the AL East five times in the past seven seasons (and will do so a sixth time this year) but that's a little deceiving. Because both reached the playoffs in three of those years, one team's success usually didn't come at the direct expense of the other the way the Giants and Dodgers fortunes so often have.
In other words, when do Yankees fans ever moan about how the Red Sox ruined a season for them?
Boston fans, however, sell "Yankees Suck" T-shirts outside other sporting events and chant it when the Yankees aren't within a thousand miles of Fenway Park. Giants and Dodgers fans keep things in better perspective. They don't like each other but they don't turn their rivalry into a pathetic obsession.
So those fans will crowd Dodger Stadium this week and tune in to the Bay Area broadcasts, root for Barry Bonds and Shawn Green, second-guess Dusty Baker and Jim Tracy, hope the Astros don't sneak into the race, and keep alive a rivalry that extends back thousands of miles and several generations.
Remember: Jackie Robinson retired rather than wear a Giants uniform.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.